How to Keep Your Finances Safe while Shopping Online with Your Mac

By Mark L. Chambers

You can take a few extra steps to keep your finances safe while shopping online with your Mac. Unfortunately, no list of “absolutely safe” online banks or investment companies exists. Online security is a concept you should constantly monitor while exchanging information with websites, especially when that information includes personal data such as your Social Security number and credit-card information.

Keep these guidelines in mind while using online commerce sites to greatly reduce the risk of identity theft (or worse):

  • Never use an online bank or investment house that doesn’t offer a secure, encrypted connection when you enter your personal information and credit card number. If you’re using Apple’s Safari browser, the padlock icon appears next to the site name in the Address and Search box. When the padlock icon appears, the connection is encrypted and secure (and the address starts with the prefix https rather than http). If the connection isn’t secure, go elsewhere.
  • Avoid using Safari’s AutoFill feature. If you fill out many forms online — when you’re shopping at websites, for example, or trading online — you can add the AutoFill button (which looks like a little text box and a pen) to your toolbar. AutoFill can complete these online forms for you. If you’re nervous about releasing personal information to any website, you may not want to use AutoFill. You can specify which information is used for AutoFill (or disable it entirely) by launching Safari and choosing Safari→Preferences. Clicking the AutoFill toolbar button in the Preferences dialog displays the settings; to disable AutoFill, just clear each check box.

If you decide to use this feature, make sure that the connection is secure (again, look for the padlock icon in the Address and Search box) and read the site’s Privacy Agreement page first to see how your identity data will be treated.

  • Look for a security symbol. Several well-respected online security companies act as watchdogs for online banking and investing institutions. When you see the symbol of one of these companies, it’s a good indicator that the bank or broker is interested in maintaining your privacy and protecting your identity. Some of the best-known security companies on the web include TraceSecurity, Verisign, and webSense. Luckily, you don’t have to implement all the software and assorted protection protocols that run behind the scenes when you connect to your bank!